21. the beautiful ones

“Second of two in a row from the artist known as Prince, because you just don’t do justice to what he accomplished through the 1980s with a single item. In 1984, that would’ve meant Purple Rain (album and movie), which for me finally drove home the point that the most necessary music-art-whatever-you-want-to-call-it almost never comes from where you’re expecting it. In other words, I walked into the movie theatre more curious than anything (what were the kids all so excited about?) and walked out a lifelong fan of this almost annoyingly talented (so-called) black guy – something I absolutely did not see coming. With The Beautiful Ones perhaps the most necessary track of all for its evocation of an infatuation so pure and delirious, the only word to describe it is … purple? By which I mean not the colour of grape juice but affected, bloated, fancy-pants, grandiose, inflated, pompous, pretentious, stilted, excessive, flattering, fulsome, boastful, bombastic, elevated, eloquent, lofty, ultimately regal. Because such is true love. If it ain’t worth taking to a preacher right f***ing now, it ain’t the really thing. Or so I’ve been told.” (Philip Random)

22. Mountains

“As I once heard it put, if you’re not into Prince, you’re either racist or homophobic. Because if the 1980s had a Beatles, it was him, particularly up to 1988. Seriously, think about that run of albums: 1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in A day, Parade, Sign of the Times, The Black Album, Lovesexy. And then there’s all the b-sides and whatnot. Or in the case of Mountains, an extended version that isn’t so much a remix as a jam, expansive and epiphanous, like the mountains in question, I guess. The first few minutes are cool and expansive pop with a big beat, but then the genius truly takes over, takes groovy flight. Because by 1986, it was all getting proved on the dance floor, and nobody proved as often, with as much versatility, panache, invention, sheer gobsmacking talent and altitude as the skinny little mutherf***er called Prince.” (Philip Random)

(Morrison Hotel Gallery)

25. eight miles high

“Because what else could ever follow Turn On The News on a playlist but perhaps the greatest cover tune of all time? Husker Du‘s annihilating take on the Byrds‘ seminal 1966 psyche out capturing that pivotal mid-80s moment when the hardcore monster caught a glimpse of itself in the psychedelic mirror, and it paused, saw both tragedy and beauty, and amplified at that. Which is to say, truth. But a truth that’s beyond words, and even music eventually, a truth that can only be conveyed via amplified sonic weaponry and an all too human howling that must leave the words behind lest they be swallowed by whatever hell hounds have been unearthed by all the compounded, concentrated evils of the world. There were a lot of those as the 80s hit their midpoint. But we weren’t too concerned. We had a killer soundtrack.” (Philip Random)

52. the killing moon

“Some songs just want to be longer, I guess. Case in point, the All Night mix of Echo and the Bunnymen’s Killing Moon. Nothing particularly wrong (or short) about the original almost six minute long album version – this one just goes further, deeper, richer. And seriously, what’s the rush given what’s on the line? Which is everything: life, death, eternity, oblivion, fate up against your will, looking the truth of it in the eye, daring to stare it down. There’s a f*** of a lot going on here, needless to say, and not just in and around Ian McCulloch‘s preposterously overwrought ego. Because I doubt the world’s ever had as many possible endings as it did in the mid-80s. If AIDS wasn’t going to get you, then trust that old man Reagan and the malevolent bureaucrats in Soviet Russia would. Or maybe it would be that hole in the ozone we kept hearing about – bigger than Antarctica, or was it Australia? And the ice caps were all melting. Yeah, we knew that even then. So why the hell not take a few more minutes to work the mood, ponder the imponderables, explore the best f***ing song ever recorded. Arguably.” (Philip Random)

58. the man whose head expanded

“I admit it. I never really gave Fall main man Mark E. Smith his proper due back in the day. But I had my reasons, mainly connected with the cult that seemed to spread up around him, which got particularly annoying as the 1980s dragged along (certainly in my narrow version of what passed for reality at the time). But that was then. Now there’s no arguing the guy had something genuinely fresh and cool mixed in with all the bile he was spewing. And to my ears, he never spewed it so well as The Man Whose Head Expanded, an assault rifle of a single that crossed my path in 1983 or thereabouts. Did I actually buy it? Or did Martin Q force it on me after one too many arguments, late night and accelerated, our heads definitely well expanded. Either way, tip of the hat to Martin for forcing the point, and to Mr. Smith just for being who he was-is-shall-always-be, good bad and ugly, because he will never die, I’m pretty sure, not with all those f***ing records kicking around.” (Philip Random)

63. sweat loaf

“I’ve said it before. I’m sure I’ll say it again. If the Butthole Surfers hadn’t existed, it would’ve been necessary to invent them. Because somebody had to do it, finally deliver a noise that was the manifestation of everything any decent, god-fearing parent or businessman or teacher or priest or shopkeeper or hockey coach had ever feared about so-called rock and roll, and worse.

Like that family of three that went missing in the vicinity of the Butthole Surfers’ compound in rural Texas, the young son butchered by the band, barbecued and force-fed to the dad who went mad and was later found naked at the side of the road, babbling, claiming he knew the truth about who killed JFK and the Jonestown massacres and how the Trilateral Commission figured into it all. Meanwhile, the mom just joined band, danced with them on stage, naked, and helped sell merchandise afterward. Such was the ugly and evil infamy of the Butthole Surfers circa 1987 … but only if you didn’t get the joke. Like their ‘cover’ of Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf, the title adjusted, everything else turned up and on its head. Better than the original by orders of magnitude, and Satan.” (Philip Random)

64. song to the siren

This Mortal Coil were a project, not a band, brainchild of 4AD Records’ Ivo Watts-Russell. The idea being to dissolve the boundaries between the various groups and artists on the label, get everybody mixing it up together, with an accent on the ethereal, the mysterious yet easy to listen to. Which certainly worked for me, the first album in particular, It’ll End In Tears, which got a pile of play in the middle 80s, evoking as it did an apocalypse that was neither fire nor brimstone, but rather deep and spacious, mournful even. Ideal for the coming down phase of any number of psychedelic ventures – the part where you’re still too wired to sleep, too spent to do anything else but lie flat. The forty plus minutes of It’ll End In Tears being all somber relaxation and release, a whole definitely more than the sum of its parts, except maybe the cover of Tim Buckley’s Song To The Siren, the Cocteau Twins Elizabeth Fraser taking it places where gravity remains unknown, and you with it. Or did I dream that part?” (Philip Random)

100. this is the sea

“Because sometimes the music just needs to be BIG. And who better to lay it all down than the band that put a name to such stuff, The Waterboys, who yes, as a matter of fact, were more relevant than U2 in the power and passion realm come the mid-1980s. Because in main man Mike Scott, they had a proper a poet on board, and thus more colours, clearer visions, greater incision. At least that was the argument a few months ago. This Is The Sea (album and song) versus The Unforgettable Fire (album and song), both high water marks, no doubt, but Waterboys had more of it, whatever it is, because water beats fire every time. I guess. What I can easily say now, many years after the fact, is that the album (and band) that still speaks to me is the outfit that Mr. Scott put together way back when, because unlike U2, he found a way to haul on the reins at just the right moment, stopped the whole mad and beautiful thing from charging off into the abyss of fame and ridiculousness which, I figure, mainly meant not losing focus, making sure the music and poetry that infused it remained bigger than all other concerns. Or something like that. Because like the song says, this ain’t no brook, no creek, no river even, this is this, as big as it gets. Bigger than words anyway.” (Philip Random)

103. sex bomb

“The album is called Generic. The contents are anything but, the band known as Flipper being one of those outfits that weren’t exactly punk, except what else could they be, except maybe one of the all time essential party outfits? With Sex Bomb my particular go-to for those times when the party really does need to last all night long even if there aren’t chemicals in your blood, just too much alcohol and perhaps marijuana and sloppy stupid eruptions of fun, un-focus, glory even … as we all throw in, do our part to keep this mad world at least in some loose connection with its axis (or maybe the opposite). I do recall thinking this, some late 80s punk party, in the basement of the place they called the Sewer View. A few bands had played, maybe even the Evaporators, but now it was just some guy’s party tape. Probably mine.” (Philip Random)

(image source)